GovTech Agency establishes task force to manage government e-waste

With growing reliance on digital technology, managing electronic waste, or e-waste, is becoming increasingly challenging. In response, the GovTech Agency is establishing an internal task force to assess and manage e-waste at the government level, with plans for a national extension.

According to the World Health Organisation, e-waste is the fastest-growing solid waste globally. In Bhutan, the 2019 National Waste Inventory Survey estimated that over 1,000 tonnes of e-waste are generated annually.

The GovTech Agency now plans to research e-waste management practices, including implementing Extended Producer Responsibility programmes to hold manufacturers accountable for their products’ end-of-life management.

The agency will also explore reducing e-waste generation within the agency and collaborate with recycling facilities. Additionally, it will educate its employees on responsible e-waste management.

Karma Sonam, the chief ICT officer with the GovTech Agency said, “The task force is responsible for studying how we can use e-waste, how we can manage it, how we can deal with it, and where we can dispose of it.”

The GovTech Agency said that e-waste will continue to increase. Between 2023 and 2024, the agency procured about Nu 70 M worth of electronics.

“These devices can be used for five to seven years on average. After that, they become unusable and turn into e-waste,” Karma Sonam added.

 In 2015, the erstwhile information technology and telecom department tried to outsource e-waste management but faced delays due to budget and expertise constraints.

Meanwhile, managing and storing e-waste is also becoming a challenge for electronic repair shops.

Pema Tamang who sells and repairs electronic equipment said that repairing smaller electronics like laptops or smartphones is easier, but complex repairs require expertise and better equipment.

“People try to repair it and use it. If it is not repairable and cannot be sold as second-hand, they directly dump it. Some people tell us to keep it, but we also do not have space to dump it. We do keep some useful parts in storage,” said Pema.

Santa Bhadur, who also owns an electronics repair shop in Thimphu said that some e-waste, such as old refrigerators, contains harmful chemicals.

 He said, “In the past, the danger of e-waste was that the old system contained environmental pollutant gases like R22. The use of R22 has been stopped by the NEC.”

According to the GovTech Agency, if e-waste is not properly managed now, it will become more difficult in the future as people continue to buy more electronic products

 Tenzin Loday Gyeltshen

Edited by Sherub Dorji

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